I haven’t watched as much wrestling as I would have liked this month (which is still too much wrestling by most people’s standards), so this is sadly another New Japan heavy list. It’s not as fun doing that, as I imagine most people will have seen these matches, but I do also suspect it happens because, well, NJPW puts on the best wrestling. Still, there are a few other companies in there and, hopefully, you find a gem you were unaware of.
What happens when you put two insane men into a ring and let them loose on each other? Well, in a different world, one of them probably ends up dead, but in a mainstream wrestling promotion? You get this match, and for a deathmatch in a company with a major TV deal, this was fantastic. Moxley and Janela were always going to push each other to do stupid shit, and that’s exactly what happened. I will always love them for it.
White and Tanahashi have sketchy chemistry at best. I’ve enjoyed their matches more than most, but they’ve struggled to catch magic together – until Dominion that is. For the first time, this felt like two wrestlers on the same page, working together to create something great and succeeding. It was one of the better straight-up matches White’s produced in New Japan (outside of his Okada encounters) and, in a similar vein to the next match, gave me hope we might get the standout G1 that he needs to provide.
Weirdly, Tomohiro Ishii sees something in Taichi. He knows he’s a cheating wee shitebag, but he also thinks that he’s capable of more and wants to bring it out of him. That was the narrative that defined their war at Dominion, and Ishii could go home content with a job well done. These two clobbered each other again and again, as Taichi stepped up and produced a NEVER style match against the king of them. This brawl gave me hope for Taichi’s G1, now let’s hope he doesn’t let me down.
On a packed Dominion card, Dragon Lee and Will Ospreay went out and did what no-one else was going to do, a wild spotfest. These two ditched any wish to set their match within a world of intricate wrestling holds and subtle storytelling, to instead hit the spectacular and pop the crowd. It’s a style that can be hit and miss, but these are two of the best at it, and this was incredible.
We’re getting a lot of Will this month. Ospreay and Eagles have been quietly putting together one hell of a feud down in Australia, and it’s now stepped over into New Japan, possibly even ending there. For on New Japan’s Down Under, these two brought the house down in a match that was both a fantastic display of wrestling and a suitable capping off of Eagles issues with The Bullet Club. It saw Robbie firmly establish himself as a babyface and put on his best match yet in New Japan, so you can’t complain about that, can you?
I doubt I was the only person who was unsure how Jon Moxley was going to settle into the world of New Japan. It was two spheres that didn’t seem to be on a collision course, and yet, in his debut, Mox smashed it out the park. He and Juice went out at the Super Junior Final and beat the living shit out of each other, neither man holding back in an attempt to get themselves and the US Title over. It might need a bit of work to get the belt to a respectable level again, but Mox and Juice came out with a shitload of new fans.
Hijo del Vikingo has become a one-man GIF producing machine, as he finds new and inventive ways to do incredible things down in Mexico. In the ring with Laredo Kid, though, he put together a match that was so much more than a series of GIFS. These two went out there and had a good old-fashioned game of one-upmanship, raising the bar further and further with each spectacular moment. This is one of those matches that can’t be described, just watch it.
Was Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito dangerous as hell? Yes, of course, it was. But I’ve got a secret for you folks, all wrestling is, and more people get injured on simple moves than they do on the crazy stuff. If you don’t like it, you’re watching the wrong entertainment. I don’t want Naito and Ibushi to kill each other, but I can’t pretend I don’t love watching them try. These two go further than nearly anyone in their attempts to put on a match that leaves you on the edge of your seat, hands covering your eyes, but always with a gap big enough that you can peek out and see what they do next.
Anger that had been bubbling under the surface for months finally came to the surface when Arisa and Tam faced off, and when it came to the surface, both women channelled it into hitting the other as hard as possible. From a pure wrestling perspective, this was brilliant, a hard-hitting fight that saw them both leave it out there. If you focus in on the story, though, it was even better. Nakano and Hoshiki had found themselves unable to communicate with words, so they did it with actions, and it produced magic.
My two frontrunners for wrestler of the year went head to head in the Best Of The Super Junior Final, and it was everything I wanted it to be. Shingo came in as the unbeaten Dragon, pulverising everyone in his path. Will promised to be the Dragon Slayer, and when they together, they had to push each other to extremes to determine a victor. These two are on a level that few can touch, and watching them battle it out was a joy from start to finish. If you’ve somehow missed this match, then run to see it as quickly as possible.